Mobile apps ‘the next opportunity’ for retailers

Common Agency managing director Simon Howship
Common Agency managing director Simon Howship
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A retail app revolution is set to grow the mobile development industry dramatically, Common Agency has said.

The Huddersfield-based digital agency said the increasing popularity of smartphones and mobile apps presents “huge opportunities” for retailers looking to grow customer base.

Common managing director Simon Howship told The Yorkshire Post that while many businesses still don’t understand the benefits of an app, retail is reaching a tipping point that will bring an explosion of mobile-platform activity.

As a result, the sector could grow to be “as big as dotcom” in the late ‘90s, he said.

Earlier this week, Google brought in its “mobile-geddon” changes, which began taking mobile compatibility into account in search rankings.

While this pushes companies to boost their mobile web credentials, statistics show users tend to focus on apps, Mr Howship said.

He said: “Some statistics out recently showed that 61 per cent of people now own a smartphone.

“Out of the people using those on a daily basis, 86 per cent of their time is spent inside apps.”

Despite shoppers’ shift towards mobile, a Barclays survey recently found 68 per cent of retailers have no clear mobile strategy, Mr Howship said.

“The most exciting statistic is if you flip it the other way - the 32 per cent that have are reaping fantastic reward,” he said.

“They’re seeing unbelievable revenues and they’re growing customer base.”

By 2020, it is estimated the mobile retail market will be worth £53bn annually, Mr Howship said.

“You’ve got to get a relationship with those customers now,” he said. “You don’t want to be the retailer that’s left behind.”

Common specialises in transactional apps, working with online retailers such as Moonpig and Photobox.

Its clients have seen first-hand the benefit of apps.

“A very high percentage of the customers that interact with customers’ brands on an app are new to the brand,” Mr Howship said.

“They know the brand, but they’ve never interacted with them before. Give them the app and that connection to their device and they start to interact with them.

“You’ve got to be wherever your customers go looking for you.”

While Moonpig initially thought of the app as a “tick-box exercise”, going mobile has proved to be a commercially successful move, he said.

Common offers a full range of development services, from initial discovery to design, build and maintenance.

The agency focuses on “native” apps - apps that are developed specifically for Apple or Android operating systems, rather than through universal frameworks.

“It’s engineered in Yorkshire, we’re proud of that,” Mr Howship said. “We do trade very heavily on our Northern credentials: being very open, very honest, we say it how it is. Clients like that.”

Since launching as a mobile app specialist in 2010, the business has seen turnover and profit grow year-on-year, with 30 per cent growth in 2014.

It now employs 12 members of staff and has trained four apprentices, three of which are still in the company.

The company is poised for further expansion as the sector grows.

“It’s a very exciting industry,” Mr Howship added.